It’s no secret that the past two years have been incredibly challenging. First, and it is critical to recognize, the scale and scope of human loss and suffering has been devastating. Second, the difficulties operating our businesses and caring for our employees have at times felt insurmountable.
You are not alone in feeling the frustration of burnout, the exasperation of a seemingly endless to do list, and the uncertainty of what the next normal will even look like. Similarly, however, you are not alone in hoping for a better 2022. Use this guide to turn that hope into actionable steps for a great new year.
Now is the best time of year to carve out a few hours to think about your objectives for the new year and set yourself up for success. Get yourself a cup of tea, find a quiet corner, and begin to name the things you hope to accomplish for your team and your company in the new year. Get your lofty goals and blue sky ideas down on paper. At this stage of the planning process, there are no wrong answers.
Now, you need give these loose goals, objectives, hopes, and dreams some form. Many people benefit from working on a large whiteboard or on an empty conference room wall with plenty of sticky notes for this stage of the planning process.
The best framework for defining clear and attainable goals is the SMART system. That is, each goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, if you have written down “reduce turnover” in the blue sky portion of this process, the SMART goal becomes clarified as “Reduce our organization’s current turnover rate of 17.5% to below 10% by completing a compensation audit by the end of the first quarter of 2022 and increasing our investment in staff engagement activities throughout the year.”
Remember, the more specific you can make the goal, and the more accountable you can make individuals responsible for key components of the goal, the better!
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Next, you will need to prioritize ruthlessly. Remember, if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. At this stage in your goal planning journey, the use of a calendar will be extremely beneficial. Break the coming year into its constituent parts – quarters, months, and weeks – and remember, there are only 24 hours in any given day!
Some goals won’t make the cut either because they are too pie-in-the-sky or they are too far removed from the focus of the remainder of your work. That’s okay! Your purpose in this process is to optimize success in 2022. Goals that pull you too far from your critical work or don’t ultimately serve the core aims of your organization need to be shelved at this stage in the process.
The best way to ensure that your goals serve the larger purpose of your organization and remain coherent across long periods of time is the 1-3-5 framework. For this exercise you will need to
- Name the number-one-no-compromise-absolutely-must-do goal for each relevant time period.
- Name the three following goals that are very important – items you would commit significant time and resources to assure their completion.
- Finally, list the five goals or objectives that are not necessarily critical, but would feel really great if you were to accomplish them in the given timeframe.
If you faithfully map out the 1-3-5 framework for your goals, you will have a guiding light goal for the whole year with three big areas of focus followed by five nice-to-haves for 2022. Now, create the 1-3-5 building blocks for each quarter of the year and repeat this step for each month. Ideally, this will provide the critical insight needed to see how your daily and weekly work connect to the larger ambitions of your department while providing coherence across all of 2022.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
At this point in the process, don’t try to get more granular than planning at the month level. If the past two years have taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected and favor flexibility. The 1-3-5 framework allows you to bake in flexibility and facilitates the reprioritization of goals as circumstances on the ground may change.
Looking over your 1-3-5 plan of SMART goals for the year, it’s okay to not have all of the answers or every box filled out. Just keep in mind the unique circumstances of your business so you can best fill out the plan to serve your organization’s goals for the year. For example, if every September you know your sales team spends a lot of time in the field, don’t plan significant training and development activities during this period. Your institutional knowledge must guide some of the practical decisions around where and when you place certain objectives.
Congratulations! You now have an actionable framework for tackling whatever 2022 will throw at you. The only thing left is to get out there and start executing on the big, achievable goals you’ve set for yourself and your team. Leave room for a regular review of each set of goals, bake in a little grace for anything that takes longer than you expect, and embrace the flexibility needed to meet each unexpected challenge. You got this!